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Our best years - Vayechi

Thursday, 31 December, 2020 - 8:54 am

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How would you react if someone told you that this corona period is the best period of his or her life?

In this week’s Parasha Vayechi, the Torah describes the last years of Jacob, which he lived in Egypt. Rabbi Jacob ben Asher (also known as the Baal Haturim) notes that these years were the best of Jacob’s life! How is this possible? Egypt is described a land full of lewdness and sins. Spiritually, Egypt represents everything that is an obstacle to our good deeds. Why weren’t the years Jacob spent in the Holy Land his best years?

The Third Rebbe of Chabad had the same question when he was a child, which he asked his grandfather, the First Rebbe of Chabad. His grandfather explained to him that when Jacob’s family was in Egypt, they studied the Torah and kept their Jewish faith. The Torah gave them the necessary strength in order not to be influenced by the negative environment of Egypt.

This nice explanation answers the question about how it is possible that Jacob had good years in Egypt. But it does not answer the question about why his best years were there…

In truth, the Rebbe’s explanation indirectly answers the second question. Because when we succeed in acting correctly and ethically in difficult circumstances, this is more special and significant than doing it in ideal circumstances. This is why Jacob’s best years happened in corrupted Egypt.

Yet, the Rebbe did not clearly tell this to his grandchild, who was still a kid, because we should not actively search and try to put ourselves in difficult and challenging situations. It is best to act morally in a secure and good environment. But when G-d brings us to a difficult situation, we need to remember we can turn this challenge into an opportunity. Through studying the Torah and caring for our fellow people, we can transform the darkness into light.

All of us have difficulties in this corona period. Let us study Torah and this will give us the strength to be able to say that finally, this period, where we transformed the challenge into an opportunity, was the best of our lives.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

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